Tree Vandalism

Trees are often the target of vandals


An email from Veronica G. in the United Kingdom:

Hello, I am writing you from UK - On the street where I live, vandals have removed the bark from the whole of a young sapling's trunk as far as they could reach. Does this mean the tree will die? Can I do anything to help this tree? Your advice would be appreciated. Regards, Veronica


In a later email, Veronica provided us with this photo

Vandals removed all the bark from this tree trunk
The tree trunk on the right had its bark completely removed by vandals. Remnants of the bark are seen lying at the tree's base. The tree appears to be in a row of Maples.

Tree bark is often the target of vandals

Unfortunately, trees are defenseless and can be an easy target for vandals. Whether the damage is caused by someone intending to kill a tree, or by lovers or taggers carving their initials into the bark, the end result can be the same.
   

Vandals have been carving their initials in this tree trunk for decades
The smooth bark on this old Beech tree in Pennsylvania makes an inviting target for vandals who like to carve their initials.

Sensitive layers of tissue lie just inside the outer bark of a tree. This area should be protected from wounding, since open areas of tissue provide an opening for pathogens and resulting tree diseases. Damage to the conductive tissues of the tree trunk also interferes with a tree's overall health, since it may limit water uptake or the movement of vital elements (like those from photosynthesis) back down to the roots.

 


Cross-section of a tree trunk

Cross-sectional view of a tree trunk and its layers of tissue

Cross section of a tree trunk showing the
xylem, cambium, phloem and outer bark


Here is our reply to Veronica regarding the tree in the top photo:

What a shame to see this type of vandalism, and you have to wonder when one of the other trees in that row might be next, and what you might do to protect them from the same fate. The vandal was certainly thorough! Those wrought iron "tree cages" help of course, but may not discourage the most determined vandal.
  
I don't offer much hope for the long term survival of the tree in your photo. The inner bark is known as the phloem, and I'm guessing it was stripped off along with the outer bark. Therefore, even though the tree may still be able to transport water upward to the top of the tree through the xylem (inner conductive tissues), it probably lacks the ability to transport nutrients and the products of photosynthesis back down to the roots, causing a slow death.
  
I couldn't see the canopy of the tree in the photo, and couldn't tell the current condition of the leaves. If the leaves are still healthy looking, and my analysis is correct, the tree may even live for several months before giving up the ghost, due to root problems.

TreeBoss


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